WATCH: Fierce debate over whether the B.C. government should give money back to taxpayers.. Or should it be spent on areas like health care and education? Tess van Straaten takes a look.
People buying homes in British Columbia in the last year have helped contribute to a big surplus.
It’s now seven times higher than what was projected a year ago, thanks to an extra billion dollars from the property-transfer tax.
“The traditional approach by governments is to find ways to spend that additional money,” says finance minister Mike de Jong. “They generally don’t look at paying down debt and they generally don’t look at returning it to the citizens that sent it in the first place.”
The B.C. government is now planning to do just that — likely in the form of tax cuts to be announced in next week’s budget.
“The notion that we should always look to reduce the tax burden has been a constant for the 16 years this government has been in power,” de Jong says.
“They talk about budget surpluses but they never talk about the social deficit that fall from that,” says NDP leader John Horgan. “The number of kids dying in care is a direct result of under funding to the ministry of children and family development.”
“We’ve had four years to actually take care of British Columbians and a few months before an election, they give out gifts and it’s nothing more than an election ploy,” adds Green Party leader Andrew Weaver
Critics say the extra money should be going towards key areas like health care, transportation and education.
“The Supreme Court said that the BC Liberals have under-funded education for the last 13 years,” says Horgan. “K-12, all the way through, there are kids that didn’t get the education they deserve.”
The NDP used the first question period of the new session, which is the first chance they’ve had in 200 days to questions the BC Liberals in the Legislature, to attack premier Christy Clark and hammer home the point.
“When will she start to care about vulnerable in this province and let wealthy and well connected take care of themselves?” Horgan asked during question period.
But the Liberals says there’s already a record level of infrastructure investment taking place — including new hospitals, schools and transit — and it’s time to give money back.
The details, which could take the form of PST reductions, income tax cuts or tax credits, will be released next Tuesday.